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Hearing shows future of Cape Cod Canal bridges is a regional concern

The Sagamore Bridge, over the Cape Cod Canal, catches the rays of the setting sun.

JOE GROMELSKI PHOTO

By BETH TREFFEISEN | Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. | Published: December 13, 2018

HYANNIS, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Figuring out what to do with the two aging highway bridges spanning the Cape Cod Canal has the same urgency across the region, a hearing Wednesday night showed.

"The bridges are shot," said Tony Guthrie, of Weymouth, who travels to work in Chatham. "Something needs to be done."

At the last of five public meetings held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about 100 residents from across the region came to the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center to voice their opinions on what to do next.

The meeting featured a presentation on possible solutions for the Bourne and Sagamore bridges followed by a session of public input.

"You're making more of it than what it needs to be," Guthrie said. "We need new bridges."

Guthrie, who has traveled across the bridge six days a week for 35 years to commute to work, said the time between repairs on the bridges has been narrowing from every six years to every two years.

"I think we've been patient and this has been kicked down the road long enough," he said.

The Army Corps is conducting a multiyear evaluation of the two vehicular bridges to determine whether major rehabilitation or replacement will provide the most reliable, fiscally responsible solution for the future.

The study will result in a report to evaluate the risk and reliability of the structures as well as the economic effects and benefits of a number of alternatives, including continuation of routine maintenance, major rehabilitation and replacement.

The Army Corps is in charge of the three bridges over the canal, including the Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge, while the state Department of Transportation is in charge of the rotaries and roads that lead to the bridges.

The Department of Transportation is completing its own regional study of adjacent infrastructure improvements designed to ease traffic congestion.

The existing bridges were built 83 years ago and require frequent maintenance, which is costly and causes significant traffic congestion around the canal.

The initial plans have the 101 members of the Canal Sportman's Club in Buzzards Bay worried.

After missing the Army Corps meeting in Bourne, the members came to Hyannis to share their concerns on how they might be required to give up their club to make way for a new bridge.

Club president Robert Dyer believes the Army Corps would want to buy the club's property.

"We don't want the money, we want the property," said Stephen Chabot, former president of the club.

No matter how wide the bridges are made, it will not solve the problem of how Cape roads are already at capacity, said Gordon Steacy, of Centerville.

"I understand there is impatience to build new bridges, but maintaining the ones that we have meets the needs that we can logistically support," Steacy said. "Even if you widen the neck of the bottle, the bottle still holds the same amount."

The public involvement process will conclude after a second round of public meetings and final comment period after issuance of a draft environmental assessment by the Army Corps in the summer of 2019.

For Stephen Buckley, of Chatham, not having a question-and-answer session after a presentation is bad practice.

"The people here need to understand what is going on and what stage this is," he said.

He compared not having such a session to a high school student not being able to ask questions after a teacher gives a lecture.

"There is room for improvement," Buckley said.

©2018 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
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